Thursday, 4 February 2021

January (2020) – Torres Del Paine Hike – The W Trail

Day 1

The next morning, we had to be up very early to catch our bus to the National Park. I was one of the first ready and left the house carrying my big backpack and a box of everyone’s food. Joaquin and I had made it to the bus just in time and we were still waiting for the 7 others to join us. Luckily, they all made it just in time. As we were departing the bus station, I remembered that we had left the cheese, bacon and chicken in the hostel’s fridge. Oh well it was just vegetables for dinner then!

Arrived at the national park to pay the entrance fee! I had to pay about £35 whereas the Chileans in the group only about £10. What a price difference!

Next stop, the ferry port to take us over to the first camp site. On arrival it was raining but managed to get our tents up before we headed off on a small walk along one of the less travelled trails. 

Then preparing dinner in the kitchen.

Day 2

This was the first day for a full 10-hour hike. We started at our campsite Paine Grande and headed up to see Gray glacier. 

It was a fun day but sometimes the wind was very cold. We had made it to the glacier and the next campsite for lunch.  

To get a better look at the glacier we hike a bit further and across some hanging bridges. Where only one person was allowed to cross at once.

It was then time to head back to our camp site. This is when the grey clouds started coming over us. The heavens opened and we got socked. Then the sun came out and we managed to dry off but as we were getting close to camp yet again the skies turned black and we got drenched. This is when I found out that my waterproof coat was no longer waterproof! I was socked all the way through down to my underwear. Although, it was lovely to have a hot shower and change on return to camp.

The summer days are so long here. I noticed that it was hard to feel sleepy when it was still light at 11pm!

Day 3

Getting very wet the day before had a knock-on effect for the next day. The plan was to hike to the Británico lookout but we set off late as we were trying our hardest to dry off our coats and shoes still. This meant that we didn’t have time on our side we only managed to walk to the next campsite and back. It was still such a beautiful hike and I had to modify my coat so it would be waterproof again…a bin bag was very handy. There were a few showers but most of the day was glorious sunshine.

This camp site was not actually open for people to stay at but we did have to use the toilet…this was not a pleasant experience, because of location it was a drop toilet but the stench is indescribable. These were also toilets that were in a treehouse like structure we had to climb the stairs.

On the way back to camp I was having a lot of trouble with my knee and found it so hard to stand on my leg. Luckily, we had trekking poles which helped a lot. On the lake we saw how strong the wind was as it was creating mini twisters of water and blowing droplets of water in the air and creating rainbows over the lake. On another part of this trail, we were walking into the wind it was hard to walk very far at all and then other times the wind would be at our sides or behind us and kept blowing me over. I lost count of the number of times I ended up on the floor that day. I then had to get it strapped up...its a good job there were physio's with me.

Day 4

This was a little rest day…as we couldn’t book the middle camp site on this trail, we decided to miss out the middle part and we had to get back on the ferry and take a bus to the last part of the trail instead.

I felt like this was a great idea because we got to see some amazing parts of the park and trail, we didn’t have to carry a heavy backpack over rough terrain (I don’t think my knee would have coped with the extra weigh actually), and we managed to have a bit of a rest day in the middle as 10 hours a day of hiking is a lot on the body.

Jorge decided that he would hike to the next campsite but we had to take his backpack with us on the ferry and bus. Off we set to the next camp site and was time to set up the tents, have an early dinner and off to bed very very early because……

Day 5

WE GOT UP AT 2AM! Yes, 2am! We wanted to see the sunrise over the famous Torres del Paine peak. It is not advised to do this hike during the night but we also had to catch our bus at noon! We hoped to get there before the sunrise and get back intime to pack up the tents and board our bus back to Puerto Natales.

 It was so dark when we started off the hike that we all had our headtorches on but they didn’t light up much in front of us, so you had to be so careful where you were stepping. I think we took a little wrong turn and ended up walking up on the horses’ trail track. It was raining but it was also hot and sticky and it didn’t help that I had a bin bag for a coat! My knee was so sore but I kept going as I was not going to miss this part of the hike. We arrived at the next camp site for a quick toilet stop before heading on up. Finally, we reached the famous spot, we missed the sunrise but it was cloudy so there wasn’t much of the sunrise to see.
It was very windy up there and cold. That is why I brought my sleeping bag to wrap myself up in while we ate breakfast. After a needed rest it was time to head back to camp.
It was so beautiful to see the landscape on the way back that we missed on the way there but there were some very narrow paths with steep drops. 

It was so lucky that everyone managed to arrive safely. When we were almost back to camp we passed many people heading up to the spot but they kept asking us how much further it was…we said you have a few hours to go yet! Even though I was struggling to walk I still managed to arrive back to camp before some of the other in the group.

It was a very mad rush to pack up the tents and get over to the bus. We made it and then everyone was asleep! We made it back to Puerto Natales and checked in out hostel.

Day 6

This was just a rest day and a day to explore Puerto Natales, we went to see the hand in the south (which is only the finger tips), and in the evening there was a beer festival which we ended up at.


Then, for me, it was time to head off to Scout camp for another week of sleeping in the tent.




Wednesday, 3 February 2021

January (2020) – Torres Del Paine Hike – Getting there

Happy New Year!

This month has been busy organising many things for the wedding next month, plus what to do and see when my parents and grandparents come to visit in February! Joaquin and I along with his parents went to the meal tasting for the wedding. The food was delicious; I booked my vehicle and tried to find a good hairstylist but no luck yet! I finished off the last preparations for the Scout Jamboree, as I was going straight there from the hike.

All packed up and ready to go on our holiday! There were 9 of us going on the hike together – we were heading to the south of Chile to a famous national park to hike for 5 days on ‘The W trail’ in Torres Del Paine.

Firstly, we had to take 2 flights, one from Antofagasta to Santiago and then one on to Puerto Natales, it would take us around 5 hours to fly (not including stop over time). The plan was for me to fly with Michelle, Juan Pablo and Karen on the first flight of the day and Joaquin and Carolina would fly on the later flight. This was so we could take their backpacks as they would be travelling straight from working the night shift to the airport. There was only one problem! They had cancelled our flight and put us on a later flight that day and we didn’t even receive an email informing us, we only found out when double checking details!!!

Which means we would have missed our flight from Santiago to go on holiday. There are only flights to Puerto Natales 2 times a week so we would have missed the whole trip! Luckily, we managed to get our flights changed to the evening before (Saturday) and we would be able to spend a restful night at Jorge’s flat (Joaquin’s brother also coming on the hike). This would have been a great plan if everything had been like clockwork.

I make my way with 2 backpacks to the airport, then we wait and wait for ages for the desk to open so we can drop the bags. This is when we find out our flight had been delayed but it wasn’t a problem. Until the plane didn’t arrive for another 5 hours! The airline did give us a voucher for some food and drink as I was starving by 12:30am and they offered a free transfer to our destination in Santiago!

Finally, we were on the flight and asleep straight away. Needed to get those hours of sleep in! The next part of our journey was smooth. We rushed breakfast at the airport, boarded the flight and I was excited to see what the south of Chile was like from my window on the plane.  

Finally, we arrived in Puerto Natales but all super tired. We grabbed our last bits of food and gas for the hike, ate a good meal and to bed for a much-needed good night’s sleep.



Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Riots in Chile

The start of the riots for me started on October 19th (2019). That was the day I visited the Paranal Observatory, on my return there were riots kicking off in Antofagasta after they had started in Santiago (the capital) a few days earlier. 


The riots started after a rise in metro (underground for Brits!) prices, it was a rise of 30 Chilean pesos (which is around 3 pence in U.K money). Some students had jumped over the gates to avoid paying altogether. This was the start of the months of protests in Chile.

These months of riots are not because of the rise in price to the metro but because of the unjust system they have in Chile. There have been many small protests for years and years but the price rise was the straw that broke the camel’s back…as we say! 

The main slogan for these protests is ‘dignity’… they are protesting for equal rights and to bridge the gap between rich and poor. Chile is one of the top countries in Lantin America that has a high GDP but its gap between the wealthy and the underprivileged is one of the highest. The protests are also about health, education, the pension system and to change the constitution that was made in the dictatorship in the 1980’s.

From the month of October 2019 to the start of lockdown for COVID (April 2020 – well even the lockdown didn’t stop everyone!) there were riots all the time and very big protests every Friday. 

In Antofagasta there were many protests every day to start with. Many fires being set off in the streets, buildings looted and burnt down. We were at school one day and they had to send us home early due to a lot of fires surrounding the school which caused many roads to be blocked. That day the buses stopped running but lucky for me Joaquin wasn’t working and managed to come and collect me on the motorbike. We went passed a few burning barricades on the way home.

Due to riots, curfew has been enforced from 10pm to 6am. The times have changed slightly but we have been on curfew since the riots (October 2019) and it continued through the Pandemic too – so we are now still living with curfews (writing this in January 2021). 

School was closed for a few weeks and then it got extended for a little while longer. I was able to keep working on my projects from home but trips to the supermarkets were an adventure.

Another way people were protesting was to hit pots and pans either on the marches or during curfew from your garden, balcony or windows.

Once things had calmed down a little during the day, life started returning to normal but you never left the house without a mask (well I didn’t anyway). This was because of the teargas used, the police would use it all the time to disperse the crowds but it didn’t usually work as they kept fighting. Even the teargas was around the next day in the street and when driving pass or walking out you would still feel the effects from the gas - coughing, getting a sore throat and eyes watering!

One evening I was out for a walk when I stumbled upon a protest. One afternoon many people joined together to walk the length of the city. People started off in the south and walked for around 3 to 4 hours on the main road along the cost to the north. We started to walk back home among the protest. At the traffic lights the people were stopping the cars and making people get out to jump with them before letting them pass.

Some of the lines that the protesters shout:

El que no salta es paco – The one who doesn’t jump is a cop

Renuncia Piñera – Piñera quit (this is the president of Chile)

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido -The people united will never be defeated


In Santiago there is a place called Plaza Italia, this has been the centre of the protests and has been renamed to Plaza de la Dignidad (Dignity Square) this is where on March 8th 2020 where more then 2 million people gathered to protest.

There is also a square in Antofagasta called Plaza Sotomayor which has also been renamed and is now known as Plaza de la revolucion (Revolution Square). This is where a lot of protests start and finish.

One day there was a motorbike protest which Joaquin wanted to join in with, so we went on a nice ride with at least 50 other bikers and rode down the coast, we entered the square to join with protesters for a little while before continuing to the south of the city centre and then had a lovely drive back home.

One of the scariest times was when Joaquin and I had to go into the city centre for him to do some paperwork. We took the opportunity to take a bike ride into the city for a bit of exercise. This is when I experienced first-hand the front line of the protest. We had to travel near to the square where protestors were gathering, it was peaceful and a band was playing music, then on the next road down there were police throwing teargas and shooting rubber bullets and protestors throwing rocks and setting of fires. The front line are the ones who stop the cops from dispersing the peaceful protesters.

One day in Santiago the protests were so close to the Coin Palace (where the government work) that the Senit gathered to agree on a change in the constitution voted by the people in a bid to stop the rioting. The people voted in October 2020 on this matter and 78% approved to have a new constitution. Due to the pandemic protests have decreased as we are under many strict rules and quarantine, but I do believe that when the pandemic is under more control then protests will start up again and continue.